Last week, we received some questions from a reader about her upcoming Disney World trip. Since Disney is one of my favorite subjects, I’m happy to answer Disney World questions from my perspective.
Keep in mind that Disney veterans have a wide range of opinions on the answers to these questions, so there are many who will disagree with my advice. Please feel free to add your advice and recommendations in the comments section. Thanks!
Should We Stay Onsite or Offsite?
The reader’s initial inquiry:
“Planning to visit for 7 nights in middle of June 2018. I have done a full price comparison of staying on a WDW property v. offsite @ Hyatt Place Lake Buena Vista on points. Of course, staying offsite is theoretically cheaper (even with a car rental and parking fees at all the parks); however, will it be worth it? (Would we benefit from Disney Buses/Transportation, Magical Express from MCO Airport to the resort, Magic Bands, etc.)”
This is a really hard question for me to answer because my family has stayed both onsite and offsite and we have had good experiences all around.
Hyatt Place Lake Buena Vista/Orlando costs 12,000 World of Hyatt points a night. It does have a free shuttle, so you don’t even have to drive to the parks and pay the parking fee. You could even take Uber from the airport and skip the rental car altogether. However, you will have a slightly longer walk to the offsite hotel shuttle pickup areas inside the parks, although in my opinion the extra walk isn’t too bad.
Many travel agents will try to convince you that you will have an inferior Disney experience if you stay offsite. Just remember that they get a larger commission from onsite Disney resorts, so convincing you to stay onsite is in their best interest.
For onsite resorts, keep in mind that if you are looking at rates far in the future, you are looking at the “rack rates”. Disney usually releases some type of room discount as you get closer to your visit. If you book online, Disney will not adjust your rates down automatically, you will have to call to get the discount applied. If you use a travel agent, most good travel agents will automatically apply all discounts to your reservation. You can look at historical promotions and discounts here.
The biggest downside to staying at the Hyatt Place or other offsite hotels is that you can only reserve your Fast Pass + rides and times 30 days in advance (as opposed to 60+ days in advance if you stay at an onsite Disney resort). I’ve reserved rides on Fast Pass + as short as one day in advance for a last-minute trip, and all rides in the Magic Kingdom were still available to us except for two (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Frozen meet and greet).
In the other parks, you may have trouble getting a Fast Pass + at 30 days out for the most popular one or two rides (Pandora in Animal Kingdom and Frozen Ever After in Epcot, for example). However, you can always enter the standby lines for those rides first thing in the morning if you are unable to secure a Fast Pass + in advance.
Staying onsite is definitely more convenient, with Magic Bands, Magical Express airport transportation and merchandise delivery directly to your room. But, in my opinion, those conveniences can be skipped or easily substituted with low-cost options.
It comes down to this: do you value Disney theming and conveniences of onsite resorts, or would you rather save money and have extra space and free breakfast?
“Have you rented a studio through a DVC rental? If so, did you like it and which vendor did you use? (I was curious about Copper Creek Wilderness – studio, Beach Club – studio, or Animal Kingdom – cheapest studio)”
I have rented DVC points twice. The first time was back in 2008 for my oldest son’s first trip. We rented points to stay Sunday through Thursday nights in a two-bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs. We loved it!
My MIL was with us, and we had so much space. We liked being so close to Disney Springs for additional dinner options, and we utilized our kitchen for breakfast.
In early 2015, I rented DVC points to stay in a studio at Kidani Villas at Animal Kingdom. Since there were no standard views left, we had to “settle” for a savannah view. It was incredible! We saw giraffes outside our balcony every day. The cost was similar to what I would have paid for a moderate Disney resort.
In both cases, I rented points from individual DVC owners I found through the disboards DVC Rent/Trade forum. Points are usually cheaper to rent from individuals than through companies like the DVC Rental Store or David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
Keep in mind that when you rent DVC points, your rental costs are usually non-refundable. Also, there is a slight risk that the owner could cancel your reservation.
Favorite Disney World Resort
“Do you have a favorite WDW resort? If so, why? (The 2 of us stayed at the Caribbean Beach resort about 20 years ago during the off season. I was curious about Port Orleans – Riverside but there appears to be mixed reviews especially with the buses.)”
It’s really hard to choose, but my favorite resort is probably Disney’s Polynesian Village. We stayed there last year on a discounted friends and family rate for two nights.
The theming is incredible! We enjoyed free hula lessons, the nightly torch lighting ceremony with drums and the amazing art hanging throughout the resort. My kids loved the renovated pool area, and we really felt like we were far away from the theme parks in a whole other world.
Staying on the monorail loop was super convenient as well, and we love the restaurants at the resort. However, this is one of the most expensive onsite resorts.
Caribbean Beach is my favorite moderate resort. I love how all the buildings are placed around the lake. The pool was renovated a few years ago, and the pirate theming is very fun! I also love the hammocks around the lake and the laid-back atmosphere of the entire resort.
My least favorite resort (out of the 9 we have tried) is Port Orleans Riverside. I did not care for the decorations and the somewhat confusing layout of this resort. I kept getting lost the entire week, and there was just too much brown paint at the resort for my taste. Some people love this resort the best, but I just don’t get it.
Onsite Resort Buses
“How hard is it to take the buses for a family of 4 (no strollers, kids will be 11 & 14) during “Peak” June season?”
It’s very easy. At peak times (like after the fireworks shows), Disney runs buses one right after the other. In the mornings, the most you will wait is 20 minutes, but usually not even that much.
It does take longer than you think to take the bus from the parks to your resort and back. However, I’m usually just glad to be resting my feet and not fighting the traffic to get out of the parking lot.
Apps for Disney World
“Which apps do you use for WDW? Ride wait times, dining reservations, etc.”
I’ve only ever used the My Disney Experience app. It gave me all the info I needed!
Park Hopper Passes
“I’m hoping to buy 6 day park passes. Is it worth buying the park hopper v. single day only?”
I personally don’t think it’s worth it to pay extra for park hopping privileges. My family is always too exhausted to tackle a second park, and you can’t reserve rides on Fast Pass + in two different parks in advance for the same day (although you can add rides in your second park on the day of, see this FAQ).
Since you are planning to visit the parks for six days, you will have the opportunity to repeat your favorite parks without having to add the park hopper. Also, you can always add park hoppers during your trip if you really find it necessary.
Disney Articles on Miles for Family
For more information, please see our other articles on Disney World:
Readers, what advice do you have for this reader’s upcoming Disney World trip?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.